Jozy Altidore set the Red Bulls on fire like few other rookies ever have. He played a vital role in revitalizing the team en route to a playoff berth, kicking off a career that would see the 17 year old score 15 goals in 37 appearances with the team.
A record $10 million transfer fee sent him on his way to the legendary “yellow submarine” of Villarreal. Unable to latch on with the side, the young striker went on a whirlwind trip that took him through the Spanish Segunda, the Premiership, the Turkish Super Lig and finally, the Eredivisie.
Plying his trade with AZ Alkmaar, Altidore has found a home, but looking back, he wishes the option could have come sooner.
“Well, I’d probably do one of two things,” Altidore told EoS. “I probably, one, would have came to Holland earlier, or stayed at Red Bulls.
“The thing is, I think here, it’s invaluable. The problem is there’s so many politics in MLS,” he explained. “You are not going to get a move from a club in Holland besides the big clubs – they are not going to pay $10 million for a guy. Coming here was never a possibility for me as a young player. That’s just the reality of the beast.
“It’s a catch 22,” he continued. “At the same time, I think politics isn’t the word I should use. MLS is at a different state. They are at a different period where they are not at the point where they will just let young talents go at a certain price. They are kind of setting the example with myself so it wasn’t going to be so easy to make those kind of moves.”
Leaving New York wasn’t an easy decision either. Though he plainly states he has “no regrets” over the path his career has taken, certain decisions could have been given more time. Being presented with a big money move in a league that seldom sees such action for a young prospect, Altidore knew the moment could be fleeting.
Looking back, maybe it could have waited a little bit longer.
“The one thing I would probably would have done differently, I would have considered more that I really had time to probably stay a little bit longer at Red Bulls,” he conceded. “I think things in a funny way still turned out well for me, for my age and where I am right now. I can’t help but be happy with my situation. I am very lucky.”
In fact, Altidore lauds over his time in New York and credits the experience greatly for his development as a professional. “I think having guys like Claudio Reyna was invaluable,” he explained. “Ronald Wattereus, who I still keep in touch with, was a big influence though he was there a short time, Dave van Den Bergh – that whole team – I was just great with.
“Juan Pablo Angel, obviously him being a striker, I took so many things from him that he would apply, just how I control myself professionally. The whole team, I was very blessed to play in a team that had so many good professionals that have played at the highest level. I kind of knew what to expect when I made that next step forward. I was really lucky to have those guys to kind of teach me a lot of things that I would not have known if they were not around.”
The experience in New York and the relationships therein made his decision to leave all the more difficult as he watched his team make the 2008 MLS Cup Final.
“To look at the Red Bulls as they moved up – ya, it was really funny to see them (at the MLS Cup), especially because I had left the year before that but at the same time you have to do what’s best for you and your family.
“A lot of things go into play when you are making this type of decision,” he concluded. “All you can do is make them and hope for the right ones and give it your all.”